Five Years Jail For Carrying A “No Palm Oil” Label?

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The Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry raided a convenience store in Precinct 3, Putrajaya yesterday for allegedly selling food products with the words “No Palm Oil” (NPO) displayed on their plastic packaging.

Minister Armizan Mohd Ali said the raid at 11.45am was due to a public complaint the ministry received and from the inspection, the raiding team found various flavours of ice-cream products with NPO wordings.

“All the ice-cream products worth RM897.60 have been confiscated for further investigation.

“The case will be investigated under the Trade Descriptions (Prohibition of Use of Statement, Expression or Indication) (Palm Oil and Palm Oil Goods) Regulations 2022,” he said in a statement today.

If convicted, the party concerned can be fined not more than RM250,000 or jailed for a period not exceeding five years.

Based on the enforcement statistics from March 15, 2022, until May 2, 2024, under the said legislation, he said a total of 5,057 inspections had been carried out across the country on premises at various levels of the distribution chain and of that number, the ministry found four cases.

“Strict action will be taken against any importer, distributor, seller and related parties that sell products from abroad that do not comply with the relevant legislation,” he said.

By scouring over 5,000 premises and discovering four cases of ‘violations’, which he plans to prosecute with potential jail sentences for shopkeepers, this Domestic Trade Inspector is clearly reckons he is doing his bit for the Malaysian economy.

But what about its reputation as a free and open country and the longer term?

Over in Europe (a prized Malaysian market) meat production is likewise a very important part of the economy. This includes the rearing of pork.

However, there are no rules to harass and hound those who proclaim their sale of Halal only products.  Neither do the vendors of vegan products get threatened or arrested for undermining a national meat industry.

To the contrary, promotors of vegetarianism and those who are rightly concerned about the environment consistently warn the public and lobby the government over the impacts to our health and the planet from producing and eating too much meat.

Along with rainforest destruction and the draining of peatland (in favour of palm oil production) the rearing of meat is rated among the top drivers of climate change and our planet’s headlong trajectory towards overheating.

People who campaign on these issues and who offer consumers the opportunity to purchase alternative, less harmful products that might in turn create a market to encourage a change of humanity’s more dangerous habits do not get arrested and threatened with imprisonment in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Australia or most of Asia.

Indeed, the idea that this could happen anywhere, let alone Malaysia, is breathtaking for people in most countries. Certainly, in a purportedly free country it is astounding such legislation could exist.

However, in Malaysia, of course, half the population is not even allowed to decide which religion they wish to belong to, if at all.

Meanwhile, under selective enforcement, an ‘alcohol free’ premises in Malaysia would not be penalised (quite rightly) for failing to promote another healthy driver of the economy.

Malaysia is visibly back-sliding as it increasingly seeks to force people to abide by what powerful elites find profitable and convenient.

Those who raise new ideas, who warn about negative impacts, seek individual freedom or criticise corruption in the establishment are being criminalised.

When this happens a country fails and falls behind.

It is the free thinking societies who allow the flourishing of inventive and alternative solutions who rapidly evolve and outperform oppressive regimes which cause stagnation, stunting and regression.

So far, the Ice Cream Finder General has clearly cost the authorities a small fortune to achieve his four arrests, all in a drive to intimidate a whole population from even considering how things might be made better for the nation and future of the world.

Eventually, when the palm oil blight drives Malaysia into a blazing desert that can no longer host fruits, trees and rice, people may understand better how it is freedom of discussion and ideas that allows warnings to be sounded and new solutions to be found.

However, by then it will be too late. The world will have left Malaysia to its problems.

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